Here is a question I received from T.Q. in Minnesota: "I am just getting started doing Photography for Income. I am a hot mess when it comes to planning. I get busy, then things cool down and I think that I should have some kind of promotion, but then it is too late! I need some cash coming in and there's no business to be found...HELP"
I laughed to myself as I read this, because I was EXACTLY like this when I started in business. Then Kodak - back when they used to think professional photographers were important to their business - came out with "The Toolbox." It was basically some promotions and some user testimonials, but the real GEM was the Promotional Calendar. When I discovered this, you would have thought I had found the Holy Grail...it was genius!
I am going to give you a stripped down version here:
1. Buy a LARGE wall calendar with all 12 months on it. These are available for 2015 at office supply stores now. A dry erase model is best. You want 4 different colors: Black, Red, Green, Blue
2. Next, think about what promotions you will have for the upcoming year; perhaps:
January - Continue Home for the Holiday Special; Snow Days Special
February - Valentine Special; Kiddie Kontest
March - High School Senior (HSS) Reorder Special; Spring & Summer sports
April - Spring Special; HSS Ambassador/Model Program; Proms & Dances
May - Continue Spring Special
June - Moms & Memories; World's Greatest Dad
July - Red, White & Blue Children's Special, Your Best HSS
August - SCHOOL STARTS SOON/TIME'S RUNNING OUT SPECIAL for HSS
September - $1 Session fee special for HSS weekdays between 9 AM and 2 PM
October - Preschools; Fall Family Special; It's Not Too Late to Start thinking CHRISTMAS!
November - Veterans' Day Family Special; Christmas Special
December - Home for the Holidays Special
3. Now, think about how you want to promote these specials:
Direct mail - Newsletter
Direct mail - Color post card
Direct mail - two or three color post card
Direct mail - fliers
Fliers handed out at the studio or placed in each order
FlIers handed out in high traffic areas
Sandwich board (employee or temp wears a Sandwich board and visits high traffic areas)
School Newspapers and/or radio stations
Your Web Site
Email your customer list
4. If you want to run a promo in January, you have to start planning it in October. Yeah, I hear some of you now: "OMG, that's too early, I'm busy, wah, wah, wah..." If you want to get off the income roller coaster, this is how it gets done. It takes discipline. You have to have enough lead time for design, printing, mailing, etc. Trust me: if you decide on December 2nd to do a Christmas special, you are wasting your time.
5. In the month you plan to have the promotion, write it down in GREEN (for go). If the promotion is going to last one week, write the name across that week.
6. Three months PRIOR to the promotion, write the promo name with PLANNING in front of it, such as PLANNING Kiddie Kontest. Write this in RED for the number of days it will take to plan and create the media you plan to use.
7. Two months before the promotion, write PRODUCTION OF Kiddie Kontest; write this in BLUE. Include your day of mailing if using direct mail and circle it. Remember if you are using bulk mail (now called Presort Standard or Standard Mail), the post office may hold this mail up to THREE DAYS before delivering it. Build this into your mailing time. If you do several mailings per year, you'll want to purchase a Bulk Mail Permit. If you are new to this, you may want to hire a mailing company to do it for you. Even most small towns have a mailing service.
8. If you are not sure if Standard Mail is right for you, you might consider EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail). This lets you reach customers in targeted neighborhoods without having to provide names or street addresses, and no permit is required! Ask your local Post Office for details on EDDM-retail or EDDM-BMEU options. A lot of photographers overlook this service!
9. To be considered successful, you promotion should bring in at least 8 times the cost of promotion. If it costs you $500 to advertise your Kiddie Kontest, it should bring in at least $4000 in gross receipts.This is another way to say the cost of Promotion was 20%. As you get more skilled at this, you can try for your cost of Promotion to be 10%.
"This is great, but where do I learn more about the promotions?"
You'll want to get on my mailing list to be among the first to get my book, "PROMOTIONS: How Photography for Income is Done." Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time...may all of your PHOTOGRAPHY be FOR INCOME.